Monday, December 19, 2011

Last Advent: Three years past

(A sermon given at All Saints' Littleton on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 12/18/2011)

Three years have past since I became rector at All Saints’.
3 years is an important time marker for an Episcopal rector, perhaps more so than for the parish, because 3 years means that we have completely journeyed through the lectionary together.
Other than the Sundays that I’ve been gone, I have now had the opportunity to preach on every Sunday reading offered by the Episcopal Church.
To put it another way:  we’ve entered reruns…
This could mean a few things:
It could mean that you have already heard the best of what I have to offer on every Sunday reading.
(I’m hoping that this is not the case…)
It could mean that I can now begin every sermon by saying:  “Remember what I said three years ago?” and you all will of course instantly recall everything I said.
(That’s probably not happening either…)
Perhaps all it means is that I now have another source to check in on.  For each Sunday, I can now see what was it that was speaking to me, and perhaps to you, three years ago.
So I checked in on that first sermon I gave, one week before Christmas. 
The quick recap is that I made this bold claim: 
“I believe that we have found favor with God by our coming together.”
Three years have past, and I still believe this today:  we have found favor with God.
Be clear and forwarned:  finding favor with God may not bring us exactly what we bargained for.  Things are certain to not be exactly like we dreamed.
Remember that Mary…the one told that she had found favor with God...was an unwed, pregnant teenager.  She wss among the most vulnerable in her society.  By the laws of her culture, she could be publicly shamed, exiled, or killed.  At the very least, she was one that people were whispering about, and not in a friendly way.  
Despite all of this, Mary said yes to God.
In doing so, she embraced God’s vision for the world.  She gave up the way she had envisioned her life, and opened herself up to something greater than herself.
It is the most powerful of Advent messages.
So:  what sort of favor now lies before us?
Well, it is my believe that it is now time to move from being one of the best kept secrets of Littleton, to embracing a dramatic period of growth.  I believe it is time to adjust our focus towards taking the radical hospitality that we offer here outside of these walls, while at the same time, actively inviting those outside of our membership to Come and See what we are all about.
The power and beauty of what we offer is not that we all think the same and have all of the answers.  We are, instead, a place that honestly wrestles with the complexities of human life in the midst of claiming relationship to a loving God who is still in the process of transforming the world.
We offer a model for the world:  one not based on complete agreement, but instead, a loving respect for all life.
I believe the North Country desperately needs a church like All Saints’.  
We will be asked to stretch in ways that we never have before:  graciously embracing new ideas and possibilities as we share the transforming power that God has brought forth in our community.
It is this type of growth that Advent has been preparing us for...
Thanks be to God.

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